There’s been a lot of anger in the press and with the fans regarding Lance Stroll in Formula 1. He’s been quite raw and somewhat juvenile in deflecting the blame from himself with some of the incidents he has been involved with, the latest being an FP2 crash that saw his FW40 sustain significant damage.
Some write that it’s commendable that such a young man is enduring the high pressure of such a severe and often critical spotlight, as if he was forced into racing in Formula 1 and is a prisoner of the most prestigious paddock in the world of Motorsport.
There is no point in getting angry about the fact that Stroll has a race seat at Williams this season, because the team will receive the appropriate reward for making such a decision. They aren’t going to finish in the top four as a team, with only Felipe Massa looking like scoring points. Nor is this situation Lance Stroll’s fault. You have to question the payment distribution system when a team like Williams has to bring in a driver with significant backing to prevent falling into the red.
The situation at Williams is a rejection of sporting principals too. What does this do to the image of F1 as the paddock in which the absolute best single-seater drivers compete? It says nothing about that, and suggests a route into Formula 1 that puts business first, not sport. It projects a cosy little club that utterly rejects the achievements of drivers in lower Formula with greater experience and better records, who are there down to hard graft.
Lance Stroll isn’t the first pay driver and probably won’t be the last, but the decision to run him in a race seat this year, if it continues to be a campaign of underperformance and excuses, could damage the Canadian’s career in the long run.
He is still the Italian F4 and European F3 Champion. There is a clear racing talent in him, but the decision to propel him into Formula 1 could prove to be not just a poor decision from those around him, but also Williams, who must be starting to feel like they jumped the gun, took the money and damaged their reputation. It would have been better to take him on as a development driver in conjunction with a campaign in F2 or SuperFormula.